Written by: Chris Muller
With security deposits, movers, and entire days dedicated to packing—moving can be expensive. But there are plenty of cheap options you should consider. Here are some tips for moving on a budget.
Moving ranks number three in life stressors, right up there after death and divorce. Think about that for a moment. Moving is so stressful for most people that it makes the list of monumentally life-changing events. Whether you’re doing it yourself or hiring a moving company, the decisions and emotions are the same.
Each move you make represents a new phase of your life, a unique chance to start over, or even reinvent your life. Making your move budget-friendly is simple with a little bit of strategizing.
1. Avoid stress by planning ahead
Sure, there’s the old saying, “life is what happens to us while we’re making other plans,” but you don’t just have to sit back and let it happen to you. Be proactive, not reactive. Planning is the easiest way to make your move smooth and budget-friendly.
Whether you’re someone who carefully orchestrates each moment of his or her life or you live in the moment, moving takes emotional and physical energy that you need to be prepared to manage. There are many online moving checklists available, including one from the always-calm-and-collected, Martha Stewart.
2. Throw some things away
When was the last time you read that stack of magazines now producing families of dust bunnies in the corner? What about the sports equipment you bought with such good intentions that are now just another place to hang clothes? Moving is the ideal time to ditch the excess baggage you’ve been carrying around. Think of it not only as a time to clean house literally but also emotionally. Holding on to old things you never use is like a form of emotional bankruptcy; you have nothing if it’s not useful to you.
Organizing for your move means preparing for a new life. Ditch the things that may hold bad memories. Switch to new things that represent the life you want to lead. This doesn’t have to be an expensive process; it can be as simple as downsizing the couch you and your ex used to cuddle on in exchange for a single man chair that says you are master of your domain, for example. Don’t hold on to things that no longer serve a purpose in your life.
Life is about people, not things, but that’s a lesson too many of us learn too late. As Joshua Becker, the famous minimalist says (quoting John Green), “People were created to be loved. Things were created to be used.” The minimalist movement has gained popularity recently—take advantage of it.
There’s a lot to learn from living simply and within your means. Value people, not things, because you won’t be making any memories with things. The more value you place on the people you care about, the more prosperous your life will become.
3. Shop around
Don’t assume that your move is going to be the same process every time. Conveniences and prices change like everything else. Taking the time to shop around and understand your options will alleviate some of that stress we just talked about.
“When you have the time, you don’t have the money and vice versa.” Never have truer words been spoken. Finding the balance in life is what most of us are looking for. If you have the time, moving your possessions by yourself is probably going to be the best option. Whether that involves pressuring your buddies into helping or just shuttling back and forth yourself. If you have the money to budget for a moving company, then choose wisely. Know the market and the going rates. Moving.com offers a comprehensive 11-step list for figuring out how to hire the best movers.
You source most things online so why would it be any different when you’re looking for a moving company? Start with a simple search and narrow it down to your top three choices. Read the reviews, take advantage of free quotes and companies that will come to you and give a free consultation. Upack has some great comparison charts available. If you’re crossing state lines, make sure you know what’s available in your new state as well as planning for state taxes.
Many moving companies offer a flat rate for their services. Read the Yelp reviews from your state. Just because something is cheap doesn’t mean it’s right, so pay attention to multiple negative reviews. Weigh up the value of your stuff and how you will feel if it’s damaged. Packing your belongings yourself will save money, and you can be sure that it’s done carefully. After all, the number one complaint about moving companies is damaged possessions.
I can attest to this personally. We’re currently in the process of moving across state lines and I made sure to spend weeks doing my research online. I hit up Yelp, Angie’s List, and Google to research every company I found, and I ended up getting four quotes.
Guess which one I went with? I chose the third most expensive one. Why? Because they came to my home, met me, and walked through to see everything we were planning to move. The other companies gave me a quote online without seeing anything in my home, which made me uneasy.
Also, after doing some research, I found that two of the moving companies are basically a group of guys who have a U-Haul and do it as a side-business. Moving across state lines with all of my things (and my baby) made me nervous—so I went with a company that was rock solid, made me feel comfortable and confident, yet was more expensive.
4. Don’t spend money on boxes
It may seem like an obvious point, but paying for boxes can quickly drive up the cost of your move. Moving companies count on you not being organized enough and thus, having to pay for their boxes. But boxes are everywhere, and they’re yours for the taking if you just ask.
Offices are a goldmines for boxes. Save money by using the boxes from your workplace. Ask colleagues to save boxes for you, before packing day, so you’re ready to get to work. People will be more than happy to free up space, and you’ll see significant savings.
You can also take advantage of your social media followers and friends to get free boxes. Maybe they’re already helping you move, so there’s no harm in extending the circle of care and reaching out on social media for people looking to get rid of the packing boxes they’ve been storing since their last move. If you plan ahead, you can hit up garage sales and spring-cleaning times when people are actively getting rid of boxes and containers.
5. Avoid moving season
There’s a reason everyone wants to move in the summer. The weather means you can wear light clothes and you’re not stepping through slush puddles and slipping on ice. But if your schedule is flexible, moving in the off-season can save you money. It may take a little more planning and time, but your budget will appreciate the difference.
With most people choosing to move during the warmer months, you can capitalize on the fact that moving companies are actively looking for your business during the off-season. According to Angi, winter might actually be the best time to move. This gives you a chance to source the best deals and even try your hand at negotiating a lower rate. After all, this is the time of year when they need you.
Sure your family and friends may not like the idea of helping you move in less than desirable weather conditions, but they will be more available to you during the off-season. Remember that summer when you spent three weekends in a row moving friends, only to be thanked with a lousy beer? Plan a cozy pizza party in your new digs, to thank everyone who helped you and to christen your new place.
Winter also means vacancies. Landlords have a harder time filling apartments and houses when the weather is cool. This presents an opportunity for you. You may be able to negotiate on the rent, utilities or deposit during this time. In some cases, landlords may be eager enough to fill their stock and overlook your credit history. So while the weather may not be ideal, the time is and time is money, as you know.
6. Get creative with financing your move
Most of us don’t work for companies who will come and pack for us and take care of all the headaches associated with moving, including the costs. So maybe you need some extra cash to help with the move. Make sure you know what your employer will pay for and whether there are expenses you can write-off. Remember to think about extra costs like accommodation and gas if you’re move involves a significant distance.
If you have to borrow money (which I don’t advise, but I understand sometimes moves are unexpected), look into a credit card with a great intro bonus, like a 0 percent offer. This can take away some of the stress associated with moving and free you up to concentrate on the new job you’re starting, or the new home you’re moving into.
Take advantage of any favors owed by friends or acquaintances. Those three weekends in a row you spent helping your buddy move? It’s time for payback. Spread out the tasks so that you have help packing and moving. Be appreciative; saying thank you doesn’t cost anything.
Maybe you have a talent or skill that you can offer to others in return for their help in making your move less expensive. Bartering is alive and well and too few people take advantage of this economic practice. Maybe you can barter your web design services for the use of a large truck. Don’t discount how your talents can be useful in the alternative economy.
7. Get savvy with utility planning
Knowing when to transfer your utilities is going to help save you money when you move. If you’re setting up a new utility account, the timing is also crucial for your budget. Why pay for services you aren’t using yet?
Determine when you will move and when the utilities should be switched off in your current home. Be sure to get a meter reading so that you know what you owe before you say goodbye to your old place. Staying with friends or family while you pack up your home can be a smart choice. In this case, you may be able to get away with turning the utilities off even earlier and just working during the daylight hours.
No one wants to arrive at a new life and home to find darkness and cold water because you haven’t planned ahead. Be sure to contact your new utility company so that they’re aware of your moving date and you can ensure everything is ready for you. Particularly if you’re moving in the colder weather, heat will be even more critical.
Planning is key. There are many online tools for planning your utilities in your new home, including this one from the experts at Apartment Guide.
Your new life awaits you and the choices and plans you make to get to that point will make the difference between a smooth transition or feeling the full weight of the third most stressful life event.
Your new home deserves the care and attention that will ensure its success. Moving on a budget is entirely possible, and it can actually seem easy if you follow these tips.